154
THE ASANAS
Floor
Side Plank is a challenging arm balance that may get
you sweating and your heart pounding. This pose is
particularly benecial for anyone looking to improve
their focus and endurance. Holding Side Plank takes
concentration to keep your hips from sagging.
THE BIG PICTURE
This pose strengthens your core—
including your abdominals and back
muscles. Your supporting arm and
shoulder muscles are also engaging
strongly to maintain balance. Even your
leg muscles are working to support you
and keep you aligned and balanced.
SIDE PLANK
Vasisthasana
ALIGNMENT
Try to stack your hips and
shoulders on top of each
other. If comfortable, reach
your top arm up and gaze
skyward. Alternatively, you
may find looking down at
your supporting hand helps
you to stay balanced.
Elbows soft,
not locked
Hand
reaches up
Hips lift up
Shoulders and
hips stacked
Gaze up
Lower legs
Your ankle dorsiexors engage
to dorsiex your ankles and
extend your toes. Your calf
muscles are in a stretched
position. Press the side of your
foot into the oor to activate
your bularis muscles in your
bottom leg, preventing your
ankle from rolling downward.
Top thigh
Your hip adductors
engage on both sides to
stabilize your thighs.
Feet
stacked
Soleus
Gastrocnemius
Tibialis anterior
Extensor hallucis longus
Extensor digitorum longus
Fibularis muscles
Pectineus
Gracilis
Knee
Adductor brevis
Adductor longus
KEY
Joints
Muscles
Engaging
Engaging while
stretching
Stretching
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155
Bottom arm
Your rotator cu,
pectoralis major, and
deltoids engage to
stabilize your shoulder.
The triceps extend
your elbow while your
pronators help to pronate
your forearm as you press
into the palm of your
hand evenly. Your wrist
extensors engage while
your wrist exors stretch.
Neck
To turn your neck, on the side toward the
ground (this model’s left), your rotatores,
multidus, sternocleidomastoid, and
semispinalis cervicis engage. On the
side facing upward they stretch. Your
splenius capitis and splenius cervicis
engage on the upward-facing side, and
stretch on the side nearer the ground.
Torso
The abdominals engage to stabilize
your spine in neutral curves and
compress your abdominal organs.
Your spinal extensors engage to resist
gravity, bringing your spine into neutral.
Bottom thigh
Your quadriceps engage
to extend your knees and
stabilize your thighs. Your
hip abductors engage on
both sides. However, on
the bottom thigh, they work
harder to resist the force of
gravity, lifting your hip.
Tensor fasciae latae
Hip
Rectus femoris
Vastus lateralis
Vastus medialis
Sternocleidomastoid
Splenius muscles
Rectus abdominis
Abdominal obliques
Spinal extensors
Transversus abdominis
Serratus anterior
Pronator teres
Pronator quadratus
Extensor carpi radialis
Flexor digitorum superficialis
Flexor carpi radialis
Palmaris longus
Pectoralis major
Triceps brachii
Biceps brachii
Brachioradialis
Brachialis
Deltoids
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156
SIDE PLANK
Vasisthasana
CLOSER LOOK
Side Plank involves deep breaths, recruiting
more respiratory muscles than usual. There is
also significant core muscle engagement, which
is good for scoliosis, but poses risks for pregnancy.
Feet stacked
with weight
on side of foot
To reduce pressure
on wrist, come
down to rest on
your forearm
Pectoralis major has
minimal engagement
compared to the
supporting side
Gaze up to your
hand to challenge
your balance
This arm
engages minimally
compared to the
supporting arm
Stretch up to the
tips of your fingers
Quadriceps
engage to
stabilize thighs
Elbow flexors
lengthen and
engage to
stabilize
Rectus abdominis
prepregnancy
Linea alba
During pregnancy
Post-pregnancy
with diastasis
recti
Pregnancy caution
The linea alba is the connective tissue joining the sections
of the rectus abdominis. During pregnancy, pressure can
separate this tissue, causing a condition called diastasis
recti or abdominal separation. For this reason, be cautious
of poses that involve abdominal engagement and
pressure while pregnant, particularly later in pregnancy.
Respiratory muscles
In a natural breath, your diaphragm is the main player.
When you breathe deeply, as in this pose, other accessory
respiratory muscles can be recruited. The inhale involves
the muscles above left, along with small muscles along
your neck called the scalenes. The exhale also involves
deep muscles along your ribs called transversus thoracis.
INHALATION
MUSCLES
EXHALATION
MUSCLES
Sternocleidomastoid
Pectoralis
minor
Serratus
anterior
Internal
intercostal muscles
Rectus abdominis
External oblique
Internal oblique
ANTERIOR–LATERAL VIEW
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157
THE ASANAS
Floor
Calf muscles are
in a lengthened
position
This side of
your hip engages
less than the
supporting side
Knees extended
but not locked
Back muscles engage
more on this side
of your spine
Feet are flexed
(in dorsiflexion)
Strengthen
muscles with
convex side
toward floor
Thoracic
spine
Scoliosis
In scoliosis the spine curves to the side making
an S or, more commonly, a backward S shape.
Some evidence suggests that strengthening the
convex side of the primary curve with Side Plank
—by practicing with the convex side toward the
oor—can reduce sideways spinal curvature and
symptoms. Consult a specialist if you are unsure
which side needs strengthening more.
Locking elbows
Avoid locking your elbows into hyperextension
(>180 degrees). This causes compression on
the weight-bearing joint. When the bones aren’t
stacked optimally, the uneven load may lead to
osteoarthritis and impaired function over time.
Instead, microbend your elbow so it appears
straight and stacked. This will require more
muscular eort but will bring long-term stability. POSTERIOR–LATERAL VIEW
Ulna
Radius
Humerus
Hyperextension
of joint
Stable
alignment—
elbows stacked,
not locked
VARIATION
To further challenge your stability and
strengthen your core muscles, slowly lift
your top leg to a little over hip height.
Keep your hips aligned and if you feel
unstable lower your leg back down.
Leg raised just
over hip height
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